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13 October, 2015

How to Replace Dairy in Gluten-Free Cooking

Posted in : Sources: America's Test Kitchen, Saveur, Rodales Organic Life on by : Kevin Tags:

Soul & Southern Food Cookbooks

From butter to milk to buttermilk, we found creative ways to sub out dairy.


We’re celebrating our brand-new cookbook, The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook Volume 2, the follow-up to our best-selling collection of gluten-free recipes. This time around we headed back into the test kitchen to tackle new challenges, test new ingredients, and create even more groundbreaking dishes—developing 190 all-new recipes along the way.

Many people on a gluten-free diet also have other food allergy issues, including the inability to digest dairy. In fact, one of the comments we heard most from gluten-free home cooks is that they’d like to know more about how to make recipes that are both gluten-free and dairy-free. So, in response, there are dairy-free variations for many of the recipes in The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook Volume 2. There were only two types of recipes that occasionally stumped us: recipes that used three or more types of dairy, and recipes that depended heavily on dairy for flavor and texture, such as cheesecake or pie dough. We used only the ATK gluten-free all-purpose and whole-grain flour blends in our dairy-free testing; we don’t recommend using a store-bought flour blend when making recipes dairy-free. Please note that you can omit the milk powder from our all-purpose blend, but for better results substitute soy milk powder.

When it comes to dairy-free baking, we thought that replacing the butter would be the biggest hurdle since its texture and flavor play such a big role in many baked goods. To better understand this issue, we began by testing a number of dairy-free butter options in a handful of gluten-free recipes.

We tried vegetable oil and coconut oil along with several Earth Balance products, including Vegan Buttery Sticks, Vegan Shortening Sticks, and Coconut Spread. The vegetable oil and Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks both worked quite well in the recipes. The coconut oil also worked well but had a distinctive flavor that we knew would work only in coconut-flavored baked goods, such as Coconut-Cashew Muffins (pictured above).

Earth Balance Shortening Sticks and Coconut Spread fell short on flavor or tasted plasticky. Vegetable oil is our preferred substitution for melted butter and browned butter in most recipes. It works particularly well when the recipe has another strong flavor.

Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks are a good substitution for solid or softened butter. It also works well when a “buttery” flavor is important to the recipe; however, this product tastes fairly salty (so reduce or eliminate salt called for in the recipe).

There are a number of dairy-free milks on the market today, including those made from soy, rice, hemp, oats, quinoa, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and coconut. Right off the bat, we took hemp, oat, quinoa, and cashew milk off our list because they were just too difficult to find. We tested the remaining milks in gluten-free muffins and cookies, and found that soy milk and almond milk worked best. Soy milk is leaner than almond milk, which makes it an ideal replacement for low-fat milk. Rice milk is more watery and gave the baked goods an overly starchy and gummy texture. The flavor of coconut milk is too specific to make it a basic milk substitute.

There are dozens of dairy-free cream options, including coffee creamers made of hydrogenated oil as well as more natural creamers made of soy, almonds, cashews, or coconut. We tested these more natural creamers and preferred the mild flavor of plain soy creamer. None of them can be whipped.

We found it easy to make a buttermilk substitution by combining soy or almond milk with a dash of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. This works best when the buttermilk is not the main flavor but rather just a background note, as in Date-Nut Bread (pictured above).

To make 1 cup of dairy-free buttermilk, mix 1 cup of unsweetened soy or almond milk with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or fresh lemon juice.

Since none of the heavy cream replacements we tried can be whipped, we tested several store-bought whipped products, including Soyatoo! Soy Whip and Soyatoo! Rice Whip, and homemade coconut whipped cream made using the thick layer of coconut fat found at the top of a can of coconut milk. Tasters didn’t like Soyatoo!’s Rice Whip but found their Soy Whip to be a decent substitute for whipped cream. The homemade coconut whipped cream was also a decent substitute, although it uses a partial can of coconut milk and has a noticeable coconut flavor.

We tested coconut milk yogurt, soy milk yogurt, and Greek-style almond milk yogurt in several of our gluten-free recipes. The almond milk yogurt was the least successful, producing biscuits with a strong, funky flavor and a gummy texture, and muffins that were mushy. Soy milk yogurt worked fine in the muffins, but the biscuits turned out drier and crumbly. In general, however, we found soy milk yogurt to be a decent substitution for plain whole-milk yogurt even though it produced slightly dry baked goods. We prefer coconut milk yogurt, which performed well in both recipes; surprisingly, we could not taste the coconut flavor.

A number of our recipes rely on sour cream to add richness and moisture. We found a variety of dairy-free brands on the market, including Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, Weyfair, Vegan Gourmet, and Green Valley, and put them all to the test using some of our own gluten-free recipes. Although these products are thicker than regular sour cream, they all worked well. For this book, we used Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream for all of our testing.

We used cream cheese in some gluten-free cake and cookie recipes to help add structure, richness, and chew. We tested two brands of dairy-free cream cheese in our recipes: Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Vegan Gourmet Cream Cheese. Both seemed more rubbery than regular cream cheese, but they worked equally well as dairy-free substitutes. In our Cream Cheese Frosting (pictured above), they both produced a frosting with a slightly thinner, silkier texture. We used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese for all of our testing.

Finding dairy-free chocolate is not easy if you want to make sure that it was produced in a gluten-free facility. We did find a few brands online (including Scharffen Berger and Milkless) and tested them in several of our chocolate chip cookie and chocolate cake recipes. In the end, we found that all of the dairy-free bar chocolates worked well in our cake recipes (including Molten Chocolate Cakes, pictured above). We also found that the bars could be chopped and used in place of chips in cookies. Dairy-free chips worked well as stir-ins for the cookies but didn’t work as a swap for the bar chocolate in any of the cakes.

On howcanitbeglutenfree.com, see our list of 190 all-new recipes found in the The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook Volume 2, plus an interview with cookbooks executive food editor Julia Collin Davison about what she learned about dairy-free cooking.

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Source: America’s Test Kitchen.

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